CITIES AS SYSTEMS
OF SYSTEMS

Client: University of Toronto
Location: Toronto, Canada
Project timeline: 2012
Services provided: Keynote, facilitation
Taking a systems view of urban development can yield interesting insights and provide in-dications of effective policy directions.

Andrew Wisdom was an invited speaker at the University of Toronto’s workshop. Somewhat bravely, given his audience included a fair smattering of systems people, Andrew addressed the issue of Cities as Systems of Systems. He addressed the challenges faced by cities and the difficulties of making meaningful progress in meeting these challenges in the absence of an holistic approach. Andrew spoke about the power of challenging dominant paradigms in revealing potential ways forward.

Andrew looked at the waning interest globally in the issue of sustainability and the intrinsic weakness of an approach that depends on surviving with less, in addressing current problems of over-consumption and rape of the environment.

He looked at networks and organisational structures as the framework used to make decisions and to optimise performance. As an example, he then contrasted the poor outcomes stemming from application of the medical model to health challenges with the potential that could be unlocked through adopting a holistic wellness approach to a range of social and development challenges.

Finally, Andrew invited participants to think about how they might understand issues, recognise good outcomes and create effective policy and actions.

Steve Easterbrook, convenor of the workshop, has written a piece on the presentation, as has David Ng, one of the participants.